Wild Thing!

Really, one doesn’t need a reason to read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. But in case you are looking for one . . .

How about to inspire creative children’s art? Meet our Wild Things!

Wild Thing! There's a Book for that!

This post on Organized Chaos, a fabulous art blog with step by step instructions, provided the spark for this project. As we have been reading this years Caldecott Medal and Honour titles, I have also been sharing favourite Caldecott winners from the past. Sendak’s book is a real favourite of mine. It won the medal in 1964.

First we read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Wild Thing! There's a Book for that!

Inspired by instructions on the Organized Chaos blog, we really focused our attention on the details of each creature, looking at how they are a compilation of many animals in one. The children were asked to create their own creatures, incorporating body parts from at least five different animals. We brainstormed all of the body parts of potential creatures – thinking beyond body, legs and heads to claws, horns, snouts, beaks, necks, teeth, etc.

Wild Thing! There's a Book for that

Students drew in pencil to design their creatures and add details for a background landscape.

Wild Thing! There's a Book for That

Next students outlined all lines using a black sharpie.

Wild Thing! There's a Book for That

Wild Thing! There's a Book for That

Students then used crayons and pencil crayons to add colour and additional details to their very own Wild Things.

Some were inspired to create faces similar to Sendak’s creatures with the large colourful teeth, expressive eyes and big lumpy noses.

Many students enjoyed adding horns, claws and wings to their creatures.

Some made their creatures look a little more human by adding human looking hair and drawing faces with  expressions of a specific emotion.

Wild Thing! There's a Book for That

Other Wild Things were much more fantastical!

Some had multiple eyes or bird like or reptile like faces.

There were things like unicorn horns, bat wings and alligator teeth.

Some wild things had body armour and some even breathed fire!

Many students had their wild things just standing around while others had their wild things running or even dancing.

So much creativity was revealed!

IMG_6447After colour was added to the creatures body,  students added paint to their background.

Some focussed on sky, others on a forest feel.

Other students were all about colour and chose a background that highlighted the multiple colours they used in their creature.

This student is using a bright blue background to highlight the soft pastel stripes and splotches on this creative Wild Thing.

It looks part elephant, part duck, part alligator and . . .

What else can you see?

Meet a few more gorgeous Wild Things!

Big ears and a long snout! This wild thing has some super senses!

Wild Thing! There's a Book for That

How about taking this one out onto the dance floor?

Wild Thing! There's a Book for That

Don’t mess with this Wild Thing. That serious look might be disguising a wilder than usual personality!

Wild Thing! There's a Book for That

Doesn’t this make you want to get out your art supplies and make some Wild Things of your own?!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Oh, glorious snow!

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

After a glorious day in the snow yesterday, snowshoeing on Cypress Mountain, it seemed the topic of the day should be snow, glorious snow!

Two nonfiction picture books helped us understand how snow forms. I shared both of these with my class this morning. My class is a Grade 2/3 class and we were able to understand the text with lots of support and time for questions. The illustrations, charts and diagrams really helped.

The Snow Show by Carolyn Fisher (published 2008) This book is written like the reader is visiting a set of a cooking show. What’s on the menu? A recipe for snow! Not only did we learn a LOT about snow, the kids loved when I cued “Applause” and they got to clap! Some new information for us:

  • snow begins with a speck (of dirt, dust, or ash) that water vapour sticks to
  • snow crystals can also be in the shape of needles, columns or plates

The Snow Show by Carolyn Fisher

The Story of Snow: the Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson (published 2009) The close up photographs on these pages are absolutely stunning. The children couldn’t believe that snow looked like this when the crystals were magnified. They loved the pages in the back filled with “snow catching” tips and are wishing hard for a snow day so we can race outside with black heavy paper and magnifying glasses. What amazing facts did we learn?

  • no two snowflakes are alike but also, snow crystals are rarely perfect
  • snow crystals are 6 sided because of the nature of water: water molecules attach themselves in groups of 6
  • snow crystals stop growing once they fall from the clouds


Of course, a great companion book for these titles would be a favourite title of mine: Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian (published 1998 and a Caldecott winner in 1999).

snowflake bentley

My original goal was to read 60 “new to me” nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 12/60 complete 🙂

Thanks to Alyson from KidLit Frenzy for the opportunity to participate in this challenge.


Monday August 27th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading? How I love sharing the books I’ve been reading by participating in Kellee and Jen’s meme (celebrating books read from picture books to young adult selections)! Such a great way to find out about different titles.

This past week was holiday time so I read lots of novels and only one picture book that I found book shopping at Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle. I’ve been collecting Caldecott medal and honour books for the classroom and this is one I didn’t have.

Sam, Bangs and Moonshine by Evaline Ness. The illustrations were lovely in this book that won the Caldecott medal in 1967. I liked the line drawings, the limited colours and the intense expressions on the character’s faces. I had a real soft spot for Sam whose overactive imagination was used to compensate for a mother who was not really a mermaid but who had died and a father who was busy fishing all day long. Her imagination leads to some scary situations but she doesn’t abandon the magical completely.

 I also read a number of middle grade and young adult novels and even one adult novel (a rarity lately!) – an ARC called Three Graves Full.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley. This was an intense read but I really enjoyed it. You don’t often find a sibling relationship based on a lot of respect and care and this book really showcased a lovely relationship between brothers. I’ve read some reviews that claim this book is too confusing and not connected but I thought it all tied together well in the end

Will Grayson, Will Grayson written by John Green and David Levithan. I have had a very John Green summer (reading An Abundance of Katherines, The Fault in our Stars, Paper Towns, and Looking for Alaska) so I had to end my summer with this title co-authored with David Levithan. This book was all about characters. Not that plot wasn’t important, but the characters were so large (yes, literally in Tiny’s case) that they just sang out of the book (yes, again literally, in Tiny’s case :-)). Days after finishing this book, I found my mind occupied by these characters. Funny. Edgy. Humble. Vulnerable. Powerful. Such a great read!

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Wow. Such a get under your skin little book. Loved the honesty of the characters, the relevance of the story and the power in the words. Because it is told in verse, you can sit and finish this book in one sitting and then take the rest of the day just to digest it all.


Our family is one disc away from finishing the audio version of  The False Prince. Such a fantastic book!

Using Wordless Books in the Classroom

I have been using wordless books with a lot of success in my primary classroom this month. The next book I plan to share with the class is A Ball for Daisy which won Chris Raschka the 2012 Caldecott Medal.

How are wordless books used in our classroom?

Every morning we start our day at the carpet and “read” a wordless book together. Of course there is no text so we tell the story as a group as we turn the pages. Before we begin, we review our strategies for reading wordless books. This is what students typically share:

“We need to infer.”

“We look at the pictures for clues.”

“We pretend that we are the author/illustrator and think like he/she does.”

“We have to use what we already know about stories.”

“We use our background knowledge.”

As we turn the pages, students share their observations. I find this is such a fantastic opportunity to build oral language skills. Students need to listen to others and build on ideas. They have the chance to disagree and offer alternative suggestions. They extend their thinking as the class offers sugestions. My role is different from what it usually is as I sit with a book in my hand and children at my feet. I am completely guided by their pace. I repeat specific statements and ask for more thinking. I ask probing questions like, “What made you think that?” “Do you see something on the page that made you suggest . . .?” I also rephrase certain comments so as to correct grammar, extend vocabulary and provide positive feedback. Many childen that don’t often share in discussions about books have been avidly participating. It has been a very exciting and creative process.

I then leave the wordless book of the day on display with other recent ones we have shared. This is what I see at different points of the day:

*Books are shared when reading volunteers come in to listen to children read. Children who have often asked the volunteers to read to them, choose a wordless book and “tell” the story. Volunteers have made comments to me about the child’s confidence, his/her use of interesting vocabulary and about the engagement with the story.

*Wordless books are selected when our little K/1 buddies come up to read with us on Wednesday afternoons. Because our Grade 2/3 class has more students than the K/1 class, often two of my students read with one little buddy. This week I saw a little boy in kindergarten sandwiched between two of my Grade 3 boys and all of them took turns talking about and telling the story as they turned the pages. My boys were even modelling my questions, i.e. “So why do you think he’s sad?”

*Children are choosing wordless books off the shelf during quiet time and sitting with a classmate and whispering as they turn the pages. I see lots of flipping back and forth as they turn back looking for a specific picture, verify information and then resume the story. Also during quiet time I have two girls who are making their own wordless book. They sit side by side drawing pictures and talking about their story.

*There is also a transfer of “attentiveness to detail” as we read other picture books in class. Many comments and questions are about the illustrations and details noticed in the pictures.

As we celebrate illustrations and study them for additional information, I am reminded of a blog post by author Shannon Hale called Let them Eat Pictures. Hale stated:

“Our world is full of visual cues. Illustrations are symbols, just like letters are symbols. We look, we read to understand, to decode the world. Literacy, I think, is the ability to glean understanding from printed information. In order to navigate this world successfully, kids (and adults) will need to be literate in words and pictures.”

Wordless books give us the opportunity to practice inferring and looking for evidence to support an idea – comprehension strategies that we use with any kind of book – from picture books to novels.  I am excited to continue using this beautiful genre of books in my room.

For more wordless picture book titles, check out more posts on this blog.

Wonders of Wordless Magic and Few Words on Five Wordless Books

The Lion & The Mouse

The Lion & The Mouse by Caldecott medal winner Jerry Pinkney is another book we have shared together as we continue to explore a theme of kindness through picture books.

Pinkney’s story is an adaptation of the Aesop fable of the lion and the mouse who exchange an important gift – that of setting one another free. This gorgeously illustrated book is basically wordless, the only text are a few sound effects. Each page is so detailed, we found ourselves studying each image closely for clues as to what was happening in the story. We see a humongous lion being disturbed in sleep by the tiny mouse. Despite his irritation, he lets the tiny mouse go free. The mouse races back to her nest and her young. When the lion is trapped in ropes set by poachers, the tiny little mouse repays the kindness offered to her by the lion and gnaws through the ropes, setting the  king of beasts free.

Pinkney sets his version in the African Serengeti of Tanzania and Kenya. Students were fascinated by all of the animals depicted in the background as much as the close up pictures of our two heroes – the lion and the mouse.

Setting the little mouse free

How does this book continue to teach us about kindness? Students are clearly understanding that kindness is a choice, articulating that each main character had to decide what to do and chose to be kind to the other. We also spoke about how such a small decision to be kind can have far reaching effects. Students pointed out that not only did the lion save the mouse by setting her free, he also saved her family who was dependent on her. Students connected this story to other stories about the “golden rule” – treat others the way you want to be treated and spoke about karma (that all good done comes back to you.) What a powerful discussion this beautiful wordless story inspired.

Dusted off treasures

When I think about the tangible things I value, books top the list hands down. My whole house can be disorganized, but my books never are.  I consider books to be treasures. They each have a story, an experience and many memories attached. I looked through my picture books last night and selected ten little treasures to dust off and share. These are some of many books that line my family book shelf that I adore – books that often have sat there for quite some time and bring inevitable joy in being reread and shared. Nobody loves new books more than me, but this is about honouring beautiful books that have been with me for some time. Their stories tell mine.

Ten treasures that line my shelves: (in no particular order)

The Tale of Urso Brunov written by Brian Jacques and illustrated by Alexi Natchev

This book was a gift from me to my son about four years ago when he was 5 years old and ready for the longer picture book. Urso Brunov is the Little Father of All Bears, a Brunov Bear only the size of your thumb but wiser and stronger than all living creatures. During the time of the long winter sleep, four tiny bears go missing and it is up to Urso Brunov to find them and bring them home. Such a dramatic and beautiful adventure story full of clever heroics.

Hunwick’s Egg written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Pamela Lofts

When my children were toddlers and we lived in the land of picture books, Mem Fox was easily one of our very favourite authors. We read many of her books countless times. Hunwick’s Egg came into our lives later than other of Fox’s stories. We were already expert on many of her captivating Australian animals and fell hard for Hunwick, the little bandicoot who happened upon a very curious egg and fell quickly in love. Hunwick’s egg never hatched although it provided him with companionship, faith and an important secret. Yes, he realized his egg was not an egg at all but a perfectly shaped stone and he loved it all the more. This book is beyond endearing and my heart lifts just pulling it off the shelf.

Oscar and Hoo written by Theo and illustrated by Michael Dudok De Wit

Oscar and Hoo was sent to us by a dear friend who frequently gifts us with beautiful books. This is a book of comfort about a little boy Oscar who gets lost and is befriended by a lone little cloud Hoo who has also lost his flock. These two lone creatures tell stories, share dreams and give new meaning to the phrase “head in the clouds.”

The Cozy Book written by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Betty Fraser

I discovered this lovely book of verse about all things cozy at the public library and swiftly special ordered multiple copies – one for us and many to gift as this book is the perfect gift for anyone who has the honour to snuggle into a cozy corner and read to a child. Beautiful illustrations by Betty Fraser take me back to a simpler time of childhood. Relish in all that is cozy by the rhyming master Mary Ann Hoberman:

Calm Unhurried Smooth Unworried

Fine and dandy tried and true

Lovey-dovey Hunky-dory

Cozy feelings Felt by you.

Plantpet written and illustrated by Elise Primavera

This book came into my life when my husband to be scoured old book stores and discovered treasures, purchased them for me and hid them in funny places – under my pillow, in the bathtub, in the oven. This book has been mine for many years and I still delight in sharing it or just savouring it all for myself. Bertie lives all on his own in a junkyard up on a hill. He discovers Plantpet in a cage and vows to care for it. What he thought was a plant confuses him – is it a pet? It walks and digs and grows. What Plantpet does most though is tend to the long-neglected junk yard garden. But when Plantpet’s digging seems to have no end, Bertie banishes him to a corner of the yard and soon finds himself all alone. When he recognizes how much he misses his friend, Bertie races to find him only to discover a withered little green being. The two revive their friendship in the most beautiful of ways.

Our King has Horns! written by Richard Pevear and illustrated by Robert Rayevsky

This book also came into my life back in the days of the hidden books around my apartment by my husband to be that realized he was always going to have to compete with my love of books! How I have loved this book based on an old Georgian folktale. It has found its way into many read aloud situations with various children over the years and nobody ever tires of this very relevant story about the persistent nature of truth. What happens when we are forced to keep secrets too dramatic to hold? Is there freedom in revealing the truth? Such a clever story.

The Bear Under the Stairs written and illustrated by Helen Cooper

Poor little William thought he saw a bear under the stairs. Don’t bears want to eat boys for lunch? Not if they are well fed deduces William and places many food offerings in the space under the stairs where the bear resided. William’s Mom soon sniffs out the smell wafting sourly from under the stairs and together she and William brace themselves to battle that scary bear. But all that they find is an old furry rug and a broken chair. No scary bear. This book was big in our lives when sleep was frequently disturbed by upsetting nightmares and we read and reread it, finding solace in its honouring of the scary places of dark and shadows.

The Three Golden Keys written and illustrated by Peter Sis

Peter Sis brings the legend and magic of his childhood home alive in this story set in Prague. A man in a hot air balloon is blown off course and finds himself in the city of his childhood. But his old house is dark and there are three rusty padlocks on the door. Can he find the lost keys to let him in? We join in with his search through Prague’s beautiful streets and buildings. Steeped in magic, history and wonder, this book leads us through time and mystery. This book was gifted to me by friends who knew I treasure my time teaching in what was then the country of Czechoslovakia and that Prague holds a special place in my heart and memory – part real, part magic still.

Waiting for Gregory written by Kimberly Willis Holt and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska


This book was a gift from me to my husband when our children were small. It captures the wonder of a child waiting for the arrival of a baby cousin – when will that baby come to be and how long can she possibly wait? She states: “Waiting for a baby is like waiting for a show to begin.” So much to anticipate and waiting and waiting and waiting. A beautiful book – the prose and the paintings both thoughtful and gorgeous. Because we waited first long and then anxiously for our babies, this book has significant meaning in our world.

The Hello, Goodbye Window written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka

This book has special meaning to me. I grew up with grandparents far away and my children have been blessed with grandparents, two sets even, close at hand and very involved. This book celebrates the unique bond of grandparent and child told in quirky observations and Raschka’s joyous full colour stories that explode off the page. Childhood simplicity. Intergenerational love. Gardens. “Oh Susannah.” Oatmeal and raisins. Peek-a-boo. And the wonderful line that we still repeat in our house, “Hello, World! What have you got for us today?” Love to love this book.

Books are treasures. Treasures to be shared.

Owl Moon and inspired Owl Artists

One of my favourite books to read aloud in the cold dark days leading up to winter is Owl Moon, the 1988 Caldecott Medal winner written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr. This book fits in with our theme of Courage that we are exploring through various picture books but also allowed us to have a wonderful springboard for some gorgeous owl art.

A little girl goes owling with her father for the very first time and we, the readers, get to creep along with this pair over hard packed snow illuminated by the moon. We breathe the cold air, feel our own cheeks burn and marvel at the wonderful sound of crying out “Whoo-whoo-whowho-who-whoooo,” and then feeling the silence (heavy and full of wonder) surround us. Yolen’s text is poetic and the illustrations magical. A treat for the senses! When an owl is finally discovered, all of us gasped at the huge wing span and bright yellow eyes depicted in the pictures. A gorgeous book and one I never tire of reading with a class.

We discussed why the little girl in the picture was so courageous even though she was out on a dark night deep in the forest. Some insightful suggestions from the group:

  • She was too excited to feel fear
  • Being with her Dad made her feel safe and secure
  • Watching and listening for the owl distracted her
  • She pushed her fear away because she was doing something (going owling) that she had been waiting a long time to do

After the story, Ms. Gelson led a mini “how to draw an owl” lesson inspired by this wonderful blog post from Art Lessons for Kids.

And wow, did students get engaged with making beautiful owl scenes to fill up our room!

First we drew owls on plain paper and added details and colour. Hailey did a lovely job of filling up her whole page with an adorable looking owl and baby.


Catriona drew her owl in flight!


Some owls seemed to be waiting to jump into a picture book as the main character of an exciting story. Purity‘s owl is very dramatic.


Students then cut out their owl (s) and glued them to black paper making a scene. Khai made a whole family of owls perched on a branch.


Carefully positioning owls on the page.


Sergio was very clear that his owl was pregnant and put an awaiting nest on the branch. Many debates began whether an owl could be pregnant if it lay eggs. Some people thought an owl should be called “ready to lay eggs” and not pregnant. Sergio made it clear he liked his idea best and made a label on his picture pointing to the owl’s belly “pregnent” 🙂


Truman made lightly grey owls with beautiful ear tufts. Striking against the black background and yellow moon.